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Reprinted from A. E. Figueredo, (1971) "The Indians of Cuba. A Study of Cultural 
Adaptation and Ethnic Survival." Circulo: Revista de Humanidades, 3(3): 121-145, by 
kind permission of the author. 

The Indians of Cuba: A Study of Cultural Adaptation 
and Ethnic Survival 

Alfredo E. Figueredo 

The first documents relative to the Discovery and Conquest of Cuba, are reminiscent of 
Classical periploi insofar as they deal with the native peoples, and I found very little in 
them that can support any generalized assertion regarding the native Indians. Our earliest 
lengthy description of the Cuban aborigines dates from 1514 (Velazquez 1514), in the 
form of a letter "Carta de Relation" by Diego Velazquez to the King of Spain, where 
some mention is made of the Indian social structure (Raggi 1965). [1] 

It is thanks to this document that we can see how the Island was divided into large 
dominions held by great lords who apparently wielded considerable power (op. cit., 10), 
and were the tip of an intricately complex social pyramid. There was a multitude of 
smaller chiefs and sub-chiefs, an intermediate class of more or less free landholders, and 
a lower stratum of serfs and slaves, with clear indications that many of these classes were 
hereditary (loc. cit; cf. Rouse 1948). [2] 

Another document, roughly contemporaneous with the first, is the Memorial that 
Bartolome de Las Casas sent Cardinal Cisneros (Las Casas 1516). In it we learn of ethnic 
differences between the various Cuban Indians, something Velazquez had only touched 
upon (cf. Velazquez 1514: 21). There were five peoples living on the Island then, to wit: 

1. The Lucayans, or imported slaves from the Bahamas. 

2. The fisher-folk of the many small outlying islands, who are not given a distinctive 

3. The Guanahacabeyes, which Velazquez had called Guanatabeyes (loc. cit.), and 
were a rude, non-agricultural group living in the western extremity of the Island 
(ibidem; Las Casas 1516: 8). 

4. The Cibuneyes (or Ciboneyes), similar to the fisher-folk, yet somehow distinct, 
and largely held in bondage by the last group, 

5. which were the more advanced and dominant group, again unnamed, but of whom 
Las Casas wrote elsewhere as being in some cases recent immigrants from 
Hispaniola (Las Casas 1559: II, 507). [4] 

In recent times archaeologists have referred to these last as the Taino Culture, a term 
popularized mainly by the Swedish anthropologist Sven Loven during the twenties and 

thirties (Loven 1924), and which is a derivation from the adjective meaning 'good' in the 
Xaragua language of Hispaniola (cf. Martyr 1516: I, 123). [5] 

The available evidence indeed confirms a Hispaniolan origin for the more advanced 
cultural complexes (Harrington 1921: II, 425), and non-agricultural peoples of aceramic 
material cultures have been found to have lived contemporaneously with and near to 
these higher cultures (Utset 1951: 101). [6] 

Linguistically, the more advanced groups have been related to the Lokono or True 
Arawak language of Guyana (Brinton 1871), though lately there is some doubt as to this 
connection (Taylor 1960), the more venturesome linguists suggesting only a very early 
split between the Arawak languages of the Mainland and Taino, as the insular variety is 
known (Noble 1965). At any rate, there is no doubt that Taino, or at least its Xaragua 
form, was the general speech of Hispaniola and parts of Cuba when the Spaniards arrived 
(cf. Las Casas 1556: II, 311). [7] 

About the social structure of the Taino, we can say that among them the commoners were 
obviously numerically preponderant, and these included at least three distinct classes 
(Raggi 1965: 10). At the very bottom appear to have been a class referred to as tamemes 
(op. cit, 27-28; Velazquez 1514: 13), or laborers wholly at the disposition of the local 
rulers, who could be sent to work wherever their lord wished them to go, and may have 
been chiefly porters (ibidem). Next and of greater importance not only socially but 
economically as well, were the naborias, who were servants bound to the soil (cf. La 
Torre 1530), though they could also be used for domestic duties in households (Raggi op. 
cit.: 10, 27), and these may have formed the bulk of the population, because I find that 
most early documents dealing with the distribution of Indian serfs among Spanish 
conquistadores, speak only of naborias (cf. Fernandez-Duro 1888); also, perhaps both 
name and role were not ethnic in character, and most naborias were ciboneyes as well, a 
fact that could account for Las Casas' statement that most of the Cubans styled 
themselves ciboneyes (Las Casas 1559: II, 507). [8] 

There was a class of free landholders without exceptional status other than their relative 
individual independence (Raggi 1965: 10), and these were called guaoxerfs, which meant 
a deferential address much as the Renaissance Spanish term vuestra merced as applied to 
a knight (ibidem; Las Casas 1556: II, 309), and the name apparently gave rise to the 
modern Cuban expression guajiro, which refers to a native-born white farmer (cf. 
Montori 1916:91). [9] 

All nobles but the behiques held territorial rights (cf. Raggi op. cit.: 27), and then these I 
consider noble because of their exalted position and some evidence for the post being 
hereditary; behiques were medicine-men or shamans, who attended the cemis or 
household gods, and prayed to the Creator, Yocahu Vagua Maorocoti, for certain visions 
(cf. Rivero de la Calle 1966: 139; Arrom 1971: 184-185; Las Casas 1559: II, 514-515). 
The Cuban behiques apparently attended to visions chiefly, whereas their Hispaniolan 
counterparts were more active in medicinal endeavors (loc. cit.). [10] 

The nobles ruling small numbers of naborias and their pertaining land were usually 
called nitainos (Rivero de la Calle 1966: 138; Las Casas 1559: I, 398), meaning 
something like the Mediaeval French bons homines, since taino at any rate originally 
meant 'good' (Martyr 1516: I, 123). Above these were the petty lords of villages or 
provinces, called baharis in Hispaniola (Las Casas 1556: II, 309), but whose name in 
Cuba we ignore, since the sources prefer the term cacique, which means 'lord over a 
land'; one author, at least, thinks this Hispaniolan usage extended to Cuba as well (Raggi 
1965: 27). The most powerful of all the caciques were called matunheris, perhaps 'noble 
ones', since matum meant 'noble' (Raggi op. cit: 7; Martyr 1516: I, 361). These could 
exact tribute from other lords, and themselves be suzerains over other matunheris (cf. 
Raggi op. cit.: 34-37). Since descent was recorded matrilineally, and the husband resided 
in his wife's household in cases of political marriages "though such appears not to have 
been a set rule" (cf. Oviedo 1535: I, 1 18-124), occasionally a ruler came from a region 
other than the one he ruled, and in Hispaniola a woman was once cacique of Xaragua 
(Las Casas 1556:11, 308). [11] 

We have already seen how primitive peoples whom we may very well by comparison call 
barbarians lived side by side with the Taino. Some evidence points to their having been 
clients of the more powerful agriculturalists (Pichardo Moya 1945b: 81), and indeed 
since no record is extant for a single guanatabey chieftaincy or political area (cf. 
Velazquez 1514), we may so believe for the present at least. [12] 

The artifacts which we know were in general everyday use among the more advanced 
groups come mainly from the archaeological record, and include the usual Neolithic tool 
kit: pottery (platters, dishes, bowls, cooking pots, water jars); clay instruments such as 
whistles, spindle whorls and rings; polished stone celts; flint knives, scrapers, perforators, 
and points; shell gouges, cups, dishes, and ornaments; bone awls, needles, spatulas, 
beads, and pendants, as well as a largely lost assemblage of wooden objects, basketry and 
textiles (Tabio and Rey 1966: 203-206; cf. Harrington 1921). [13] 

Some ritual artifacts have been found such as bone swallow-sticks carefully decorated 
and used to induce vomiting (Rivero de la Calle 1966: 151), and Las Casas wrote of 
cotton-woven objects placed around an altar (Las Casas 1559: II, 534). There are also 
several ceremonial seats extant, carefully carved from wood and inlaid with precious 
stones and gold (Rivero de la Calle op. cit: 139, 148-149). [14] 

One of the most outstanding traits of Taino Culture was the worship of cemis or 
household gods along the lines of the Roman lares and penates (Las Casas 1559: II, 514). 
These were represented by small fetishes carved of shell, bone, wood, or stone, and are 
found profusely in most sites. Clay dolls, apparently fertility deities, are also present 
(Tabio and Rey 1966: 204). [15] 

Large villages sometimes had elaborate courts surrounded by gigantic earthen 
embankments, of which Monte Cristo is a typical example (Harrington 1921: I, 209), and 
these sometimes had inscribed stone slabs reminiscent of menhirs inside them. Other 
earthen monuments are known, some really puzzling in shape, whereas at least one is 

recorded and carefully mapped as having the outline of a bat when viewed from the air 
(Rivero de la Calle and Nunez Jimenez 1958: 50), which animal may have had some 
religious significance since it is found all over art objects such as the fancier ceramic 
vessels which are thought to be ceremonial (op. cit, 55; cf. Herrera Fritot 1952). [16] 

Agriculture was practiced extensively and included such staples as both sweet and bitter 
manioc {Manihot spp.), Indian corn or maize (Zea mays), sweet potatoes (Ipomcea 
batatas), beans {Phaseolus spp.), and several varieties of additional root crops of a more 
arcane nature (Calathea allouya, Xanthosoma sagittcefolium, etc.). There is evidence for 
the cultivation of peanuts (Arachis hypogcea) (Rivero de la Calle 1966: 26), and a kind of 
pepper, Capsicum frutescens, was widely cultivated (Perez de la Riva 1951). It appears 
that bitter manioc, in its preservable pancake or cassava form, supplied the staple food, a 
case similar to that in northern South America, and which adds strength to the theory that 
Taino Culture may have found inspiration in, if not derived from, the Venezuela-Guyanas 
area (Cruxent and Rouse 1958: I, 264-265). [17] 

The Conquest of Cuba really began in 1509, when a shipwrecked group of Spaniards won 
the friendship and respect of the Indians in the chieftaincies of Cueyba and Macaca (also 
spelled Coyva and Mahaha in contemporary sources), even converting all of the former 
area's people to the worship of a Fleming image of the Virgin Mary (Las Casas 1559: II, 
403-404, 513-514). It is not until Diego Velazquez sets out from the Spanish settlement 
of Salvatierra de la Cabana in Hispaniola with 300 men and the full backing of the 
Second Admiral at Santo Domingo, that an effective occupation begins; this was around 
new year's eve, 1511 (Las Casas op. cit: II, 522). [18] 

The Indians' puny weapons, such as bows and arrows, were no match to Spanish swords, 
crossbows, and cuirasses (Las Casas op. cit, loc. cit); few caciques offered any 
resistance, most of the population actually welcoming the Spaniards and showing 
themselves quite willing to learn new ways (Raggi 1965: 44). The number of Indian 
deaths resulting from combat between 1511 and 1516 has been put at between 15 and 20 
by an eyewitness that was very liberal with numbers (Las Casas 1516: 8). Indeed, 
Velazquez encountered very little opposition and then mainly from recent fugitives that, 
fleeing Spanish colonial rule in Hispaniola, had established themselves in eastern Cuba 
(Las Casas 1559: 523). The conquistadores were quick to establish the encomienda 
system enforced on the conquered islands, whereby Spanish settlers were assigned 
different numbers of caciques and/or naborias to rule over as feudal lords and instruct 
them in the Christian Faith. Encomiendas worked because they fitted nicely into the old 
Indian social structure, and it was easy for the natives to accept a matunheri who was a 
stranger to them; to facilitate the transition, many Spaniards married the daughters of 
caciques in order to inherit or replace them as rulers of their domains (Raggi 1965: 10- 
11). [19] 

The encomienda system was abolished as most Indians acculturated and could no longer 
be held in bondage over the objections of the Kings of Spain, who always did their best to 
protect the Indians from their many unscrupulous white subjects (cf. Despinosa 1553: 
356-357; Rojas 1533: 324). By the second half of the 16th century, most of the Indians 

had doubtless become Spaniards by all counts save race, and there never was a racial line 
separating whites from Indians (cf. Raggi op. cit., loc. cit.), as there was between white 
and Negro, so that intermarriage seems to have been frequent. [20] 

The Spanish Colonization was so thorough that by 1514 there were seven fully instituted 
cities; true, they were puny by modern standards, but still influenced very deeply the 
character of modern Cuban urban culture, which remained nearly all-Spanish in 
character. Contrasting with this, the Indian element seems to have blended with and 
influenced the Spanish settlers in the countryside, who had to learn new subsistence 
techniques in their new country (Garcia Castaneda 1949). The crops grown and the 
technical terms used by the Spanish farmers made them indistinguishable from their 
Indian neighbors, whereas in dress used, language spoken daily, and general customs, 
much the same can be said for the majority of the Indians with respect to the Spaniards 
(op. cit.; Culin 1902: 191). [21] 

It is in one of the first and most complete lists of encomiendas granted, detailed by 
Spanish civil jurisdiction and caciques and naborias involved, that we find the earliest 
clear evidence of Indian towns kept as such and granted in toto to individual Spaniards 
(La Torre 1530). Another document mentions the town of Yara, known as an Indian 
settlement to this day (Burgos 1546: 290). With the granting of freedom to the Indians, 
some of these towns and their adjacent lands were made into reservations for the 
protection of the Indians, inside whose area no white man could live (Culin 1902). [22] 

In western Cuba, the area most densely settled by Spaniards and still the demographic 
center of the Island (Marrero 1957), we only have information for two Indian settlements 
persisting alongside Spanish ones and retaining an Indian flavor. These are Guanabacoa, 
and the town of the Macurixes. Guanabacoa was soon turned into a Spanish town by the 
influx of white settlers from nearby Havana (Roig 1937: 49), while the Macurixes were 
runaways from Hispaniola, and subsisted more or less independently in the wilderness 
until they were subdued in the early XVII Century (Escoto 1924). [23] 

In eastern Cuba the situation was far different, and Indian towns such as Yara we have 
seen, persisted until our times. There have been considerable migrations of Indians from 
one area to another (cf. Culin 1902: 199), and the modern Cuban city of Jiguani, now 
indistinguishable from other urban centers in the Island, was founded as an Indian town 
by Indians in the early 1700's, and as late as 1777 was recognized as such (Pichardo 
1957: 75). In recent years, there have been other recorded migrations caused by the 
economic expulsion of the Indians away from good lands to more remote areas, 
victimized by the industrial expansion of their white neighbors who kept encroaching 
upon their lands and establishing plantations run with slave labor (Oramas 1969: 5). [24] 

From the above one would suppose that the Indian was persecuted and oppressed, yet 
such is not the case. As of 1553 we saw that practically all Indians in Cuba were free, and 
what they suffered at the hands of the slavocrats could not have been worse than what 
was the lot of the independent white farmers. Displacement from that date on seems to 
have been based upon the inability of free labor to compete with slave labor, a situation 

that was reversed in Cuba after approximately 1850, and which led to the abolition of 
slavery (Moreno Fraginals 1968: 44-45). [25] 

Again, one would believe that western Cuba, having no specifically Indian towns, was 
devoid of an aboriginal population. In spite of this, the parochial records of Guanes, the 
most westerly town in Cuba, show Indians present there much after 1600, and in nearby 
Pinar del Rio there was still a separate baptismal book for Indians in 1773 (Pichardo 
Moya 1945a: 30). In 1803, a party of Indians rebelled in far western Cuba, and were so 
many that the Spanish governor was obliged to mount an expedition against them 
(Pezuela 1866: IV, 217); unhappily, these were massacred, and they may have been the 
last cohesive western community. [26] 

Occasional uprisings notwithstanding, it is clear that many Indian communities aided the 
Spaniards effectively, and even helped the slavocrats of eastern Cuba in putting down 
slave revolts (Estrada 1876: 507). Indian militias played a very prominent part in the 
defense of such cities as Bayamo, always troubled by foes from without and within 
(ibidem). Indeed, this alliance of the white ruling class with the Indian farmers, which 
really harked back to the intermarriage between the ruling classes of both groups during 
the early Colonization, allowed many an Indian to become fully incorporated in the 
Spanish social body, and 'pass for white' by assuming the role of a small freeholder loyal 
to the King and a bulwark for the institutions of the Realm (op. cit.; Raggi 1965). [27] 

The Romantic Revival, and incipient aspirations of Cubans for independence, brought 
about a substantial concern for the Cuban Indian, yet for the most part as the 
autochthonous savage of the past (Henrfquez Urena 1963: I, 174), noble precursor of the 
rebellious Nation. In spite of Romantic poems such as the one that begins: [28] 

Por la encantadora orilla 
que riega el Cubanacay, 

donde lindas flores hay 
y el sol mas hermoso brilla, 

donde la tierna avecilla 
corta el aire en blando giro, 

y vegeta el caguajiro 

a orillas de la sabana, 

sobre unajaca alazana 

iba un rustico guajiro. 

Perfecto tipo de aquellos 

habitantes primitivos, 

con sus ojos expresivos 

y con sus negros cabellos, 

tostados como eran ellos, 

este rustico guajiro 

la cumbre azul del Capiro 

contemplaba con despecho, 

y ahogar no pudo en su pecho 

un doloroso suspiro. 

(Ndpoles Fajardo 1856) 

with obvious allusions to surviving Indians (habitantes primitivos), the urban literateurs 
capitalized upon a fantastic story which held that all Cuban Indians had been massacred 
by the Spanish conquistadores, a story which was supposed to portray the Peninsulars as 
cruel juxtaposed to the suffering Cubans, but which missed the mark widely since 
modern Cubans are of course descended from the conquistadores; not so the Spaniards 
then, who descended from those that had remained in Europe, and were quite innocent of 
what their overseas brethren may have done. Actually, the Indians were then a tiny 
population compared to the rapidly expanding 'white' mass, constantly fed by 
immigrants from Europe, and thus could be easily ignored by popular opinion as a living 
entity. [29] 

Intermarriage with Indians was so evident in some areas that by 1 845 it was ruled that the 
lands in the former Indian town and reservation of El Caney should revert to the Crown 
(Pichardo 1945: 35); in 1849, this decision was modified, and those that could prove 
'pure' Indian blood or the absence of 'inferior admixture' (i.e., Negro blood), were 
allowed to retain their lands as individuals (op. cit). Still, after this date we hear no more 
of exclusive Indian lands anywhere, and white encroachment in the specific case of El 
Caney becomes so strong that when a mission from the Royal Academy of Sciences at 
Havana visits the town in 1 890, it is stated without reserve that no Indians are left there 
(La Torre 1890: 327). [30] 

When Cuba's first war for independence breaks out in 1868, we find many Indians 
fighting on both sides. One Cuban general, Jesus Rabi, was an Indian from Jiguani (Culin 
1902: 199), and commanded a famous unit of cavalry composed mainly of other Cuban 
Indians from his home town. However, I find that official Cuban communiques refer to 
all forces, Negroes inclusive, in equal terms, and the aboriginal contribution to the wars 
of independence has been thus obscured, for no record is left of the presumably numerous 
Indian contingent that fought in the rebellious armies. [31] 

After the founding of the Sociedad Antropologica de la Isla de Cuba in 1877, there was a 
mild rebirth of interest in the minuscule Indian population. Montana's speech at the 
opening of the Society, for instance, mentions the fact that Indians (of the 'raza 
mongolica') lived alongside the predominant white population (Montane 1877: 366). 
However, archaeology and the study of the larger Negro and Chinese minorities occupied 
most of the Society's time (Sociedad Antropologica 1966), and no full report was ever 
read before it nor published dealing with the Indian population of modern Cuba (cf. 
ibidem). [32] 

We briefly saw how the Royal Academy of Sciences, which was influenced by the 
Anthropological Society, sent some expeditions to eastern Cuba during the last quarter of 
the 19th century; these were primarily archaeological in nature, though they collected 
some data on the extant Indians, but very sketchy in nature. However, the idea that these 

in effect existed was kept alive by the physical observation of living specimens (La Torre 
1890: 328etseq.). [33] 

It is not until 1901 that a more or less carefully recorded expedition visits the remaining 
Indians in eastern Cuba (Culin 1902). From this report, which, owing to its place of 
publication (Philadelphia) never circulated widely in the Island, it is that we have the first 
considerable set of ethnographic data for a modern Cuban Indian community. Stewart 
Culin, who himself was the whole expedition, observed firstly that several stevedores in 
the port of Guantanamo had marked Indian features and were referred to as indios. 
Though the most specific he ever gets as far as physical traits is concerned is the 
following description: [34] 

The Indians have black hair, light-brown complexions, and 
pleasing, regular features. (Culin 1902: 195). Culin nonetheless 
does recognize them as different from the rest of the population 
(ibidem). [35] 

As far as culture is concerned, perhaps the most significant attribute he finds is the fact 
that many families preserve a tradition of being Indian and try never to marry outside 
their race (Culin op. cit: 194). Another interesting trait he found among remote villagers 
was a matrilineal reckoning of ancestry (idem: 206), though the wife went to the 
husband's house (ibidem). [36] 

In the town of Yara, the men had 'serrated, pointed teeth' (op. cit.: 208), a peculiar trait 
which, as far as I know, is not documented archaeologically for the Cuban Indians, who 
had undeformed teeth when the Spaniards found them, and this filing of the teeth may be 
a late cultural creation, perhaps influenced by African slaves in Colonial times (cf. Ortiz 
1929); at any rate, I have read no posterior testimony reporting it among a living 
community, and the custom, along with any reasons that may have been gathered orally 
for it, may have disappeared altogether. [37] 

Linguistically, Culin was unable to find anyone who spoke a native language (Culin op. 
cit.: 192, 194), and the most peculiar trait he found was that some remote individuals, 
forming a community of about a hundred families, spoke a variant of old Spanish (op. 
cit.: 209). Since then, not even this has been reported, though the families in question 
were investigated (Oramas 1969). [38] 

There was still living memory then of men who had been caciques (Culin op. cit.: 205), 
though no rigid class structure (indeed, no class structure: they were all farmers) seems to 
have survived in the groups surveyed. There was a community reported but not visited by 
Culin, where the Indians were still living under a cacique (op. cit.: 209), and this would 
have been the place to look for any remnants of the old social structure. Notwithstanding 
the need to observe beforehand, I think it is likely that the caciques we deal with here 
were descended from lower-class individuals who filled the role according to need, and 
the old distinctions between hereditary classes had disappeared. Unless some 
communities be still left that have such headmen or caciques, we may never know. [39] 

The everyday utensils used by the Indians that Culin was able to observe, were all those 
used by the modern white Cuban farmer, of European or recent settler origin, and thus he 
does not detail them carefully (Culin op. cit: 191, 194-195, 206). Indeed, his listing of 
peculiar traits was compiled from ignorance, and I can testify that all are of Spanish 
origin, including a wooden mortar (loc. cit.). The outward cultural uniformity of both 
Indians and rural white Cubans has been amply dealt with elsewhere (Rivero de la Calle 
1966), though one should qualify that since no Spanish Cuban ever reckons ancestry 
through the mother, nor does he file his teeth, these similarities are but superficial in 
many cases, and detailed studies of the everyday life and customs of both groups are in 
order. One may very well find that, in spite of transculturation, both may still be defined 
as distinct cultures, though this is contingent upon field work. [39] 

Architecturally, there was the peculiarity of round huts (Culin 1902: 195), which Culin 
did not think distinctive, but which we know were not used by the white Cubans nor their 
Negro servants (Marrero 1957), and such structures have not been recorded again since 
then. [40] 

When Montane published a brief and sketchy report on the same subject as Culin 
(Montane 191 1), he was completely unaware of the latter' s work, yet both concluded that 
scarcely anything was left of the Cuban Indian culture and barely any Indians at that. 
Their attitude I think was ethnocentric: they expected to find a romantic wild tribe of 
Indians, and found peaceful farming communities instead; their subsequent 
disillusionment may have further prejudiced their reports, and they may have overlooked 
important cultural data merely because it was not flashy and exotic. Their underestimate 
of Indian population is based upon Western prejudice, which expects numbers in the tens 
of thousands. This is significant because the breeding population of the Cuban Indians 
has been misconstrued so often that one gets the impression that one must hurry to see 
them before they die; in reality, there are several thousands of them, and they are in no 
danger of extinction I can foresee. [41] 

Here I would like to clarify an error that found its way into the Handbook of the South 
American Indian, when Rouse therein states that Culin recorded the Cuban Indian 
population at no more than 400 (Rouse 1948: 519; cf. Culin 1902: 195). Actually, in Yara 
alone Culin estimated the Indian population at between six and seven hundred (Culin op. 
cit.: 206), and we have already seen how the remote mountaineers speaking old Spanish 
numbered one hundred families, which even conservatively would give us twice four 
hundred in those two localities alone, and half a dozen other towns are mentioned. Culin 
records Cuban Indians as extremely fertile (op. cit.: 204), a situation that still holds 
(Oramas 1969), and the population must then have increased since 1901. [42] 

Three or four thousand persons are lost in a population of several millions, and this 
accounts for the obscurity of the Cuban Indian in Insular literature. Even reputed 
sociologists accounted the Indians gone in the early forties (cf. Azcuy 1941), and not 
until Ruggles Gates climbed a few hills in 1952 were they rediscovered (Oramas 1969: 
5). [43] 

However, this new sense of discovery did not produce any one viable monograph on the 
ethnology of the modern Cuban Indians, with the possible exception of a manuscript I 
was unable to consult (Rivero de la Calle 1966: 55). Some new information, however, 
has become available, chiefly that in at least one village there is a folk tradition of a time 
when idols of stone were made, and the Sun and the Earth were worshipped (Oramas, op. 
cit, loc. cit), these last two being the chief attributes of the Supreme God of the Tamos, 
Yocahu Vagua Maorocoti (Arrom 1971: 190), though strangely, the third attribute 
(Vagua), the sea, is not mentioned, and this may be due to a loss of contact with the sea. 

Concluding, and on the basis of the scanty evidence available, it seems possible to 
assume that strong cultural forces have effected a peculiar case of ethnic survival. 
Anthropologically, the study of precisely what factors account for this should prove 
rewarding. For now we can imagine that remote locations coupled with poor 
transportation over mountains account for their survival, yet what about the towns as 
close as three miles from a populous modern port city. (Culin 1902: 204) I was able to 
trace the phenomenon historically for the first time, and present a diachronically 
structured body of evidence coupled with a bibliography. It is to be hoped that future 
field work will resolve the many ethnographic lacunae now so evident. If, as it has 
promised, the Revolutionary Government spurs cultural anthropology in Cuba (Guas 
1968: 16), or foreign scholars are allowed to work there, we can reasonably expect very 
substantial results. [45] 


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Azcuy, Fanny, 1941. Psicografia y supervivencias de los aborigenes de Cuba. La 
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Please cite this article as follows: 

Figueredo, Alfred E. (2006). The Indians of Cuba: A study of Cultural Adaptation and 
Ethnic Survival. KACIKE: The Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and 
Anthropology [On-line Journal]. Available at: TDate of access: Day, Month, Year]. 

Or use the original bibliographic data found at the top of this article (the original 
pagination has not been preserved in the version published by KACIKE). 

© 2006. Alfredo E. Figueredo. All rights reserved.